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Tackling Housing Challenges Together: Conference report

conference speakers with the Mayor of Lisburn, Director of Housing Rights, Janet Hunter, and conference Chair Lorraine Campbell, Supporting Communities

On Wednesday 19th September, Housing Rights and Supporting Communities, together with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council held our annual joint conference ‘Tackling Housing Challenges Together’.

The conference focussed on Collaboration, Community Planning and the Wellbeing agenda and included speakers from local councils, housing associations, planning organisations as well as contributors from Scotland.

The event was chaired by Lorraine Campbell, Chair of Supporting Communities and was opened with a welcome from the Right Worshipful Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Uel Mackin.

Session 1: Promoting Wellbeing through Community Planning

The opening session of the conference began with presentations from Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of Carnegie UK Trust and Louise Warde Hunter, Deputy Secretary for Housing and Urban Regeneration at the Department for Communities. Both speakers set the scene for the day ahead, outlining the policy landscape.
Martyn’s presentation highlighted the work of Carnegie UK Trust and in particular drew conference attendees attention to a new initiative underway with three local councils in Northern Ireland, ‘Embedding Wellbeing’. Martyn highlighted the need for an outcomes based approach, a horizontally and vertically joined up government, an asset based approach and a commitment to prevention.

Louise carried many of these themes further in her presentation by examining the role of government. Delegates heard how the NI Executive’s draft Programme for Government links to specific projects aimed at tackling housing challenges such as the Public Land for Housing Project.

In the Q&A which followed Martyn & Louise’s presentation, there was further discussion about innovation and the space available for partnership working.

Session 2: Rising to the Challenge

After the morning coffee break, delegates had space to reflect on how some organisations, both in NI and in Scotland have been working to embrace the challenge presented to work collaboratively to deliver community planning.

First up was Karen Smyth, Head of Policy and Governance with NILGA. Karen’s presentation  looked in detail at the mechanics of collaboration to tackle a cross cutting issue like housing and at the potential for local government to deliver on this.

Katie Kelly, Deputy Chief Executive of Safer Communities with East Ayreshire Council gave an exciting presentation on the work of Vibrant Communities. Focussing on the transformative nature of community involvement, Katie’s presentation gave practical examples of the impact of involving the community in decision making to produce better outcomes.

Dr Louise O’Kane, Planner and Engagement Officer with Community Places outlined practical tools for community involvement. Using the Scottish National Standards for Community Engagement, Louise’s presentation, highlighted tools such as My Place (a participatory Card Game) and Participatory Budgeting.

The session finished with a Q&A before delegates were invited to enjoy lunch.

Session 3: Practical Responses – engaging on the ground

Elma Newberry, Assistant Director of Land & Regeneration Services with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) opened the final session of the day. Elma’s presentation, focussed on the evidence based used to decide where and how many new homes should be built. Outlining housing need trends and the NIHE’s role as a statutory partner in the community planning process, Elma’s presentation also included a focus on future supply.

Delegates then heard from Lesley Baird, Chief Executive of TPAS Scotland. Lesley’s presentation, gave an assessment of how people have been involved in the community planning process in Scotland. In Scotland, the Community Empowerment Scotland Act 2015 sets national standards for community engagement. Whilst the legislation has provided a strong infrastructure for engagement there remains work to be done.

Councillor Nathan Anderson, Chair of the Housing Liaison Forum at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council then outlined to conference delegates the work of the newly established forum. Intended to provide a space for engagement to address housing issues in the community planning process, the conference heard about the future plans and key issues facing the Forum. Key issues the Forum is focussing on include antisocial behaviour and welfare reform.
Session 3 of the conference also included a panel discussion. Session 3 speakers were joined by Teresa McCloskey, Performance & Quality Improvement Manager at Apex Housing Association, Louise Moore, Head of Community Planning at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and David Patterson, Head of Community Planning at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

Housing Rights and Supporting Communities are very grateful to our conference collaborator Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and our event sponsors; NIHE, Apex, South Ulster Housing Association and Newington Housing Association.

Feedback from attendees

Housing Rights and Supporting Communities have received fantastic feedback from those who attended the conference. We are delighted that so many of those attending got so much from the event.

"Fabulous!!!! Not only was the conference topic of Housing Challenges truly tackled, it was most definitely underpinned by its Community Planning elements. The speakers were so knowledgeable, 'vibrant' and enthusiastic about their topic."

"Thank you for providing a bursary for us to attend. The conference was very informative and educational. A big inspiration to continue engaging with communities and service provider's. Together we can change the world!"

"An enjoyable inspiring event."


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This article was written on 24 September 2018. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.